Society for Neuroscience Presents Science Education and Outreach Awards
CHICAGO — The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) will present Stefano Sandrone, PhD; Cristian Zaelzer-Perez, PhD; Victoria Heimer-McGinn, PhD; and representatives from Project Bridge with this year’s Science Education and Outreach Awards, comprising the Science Educator and the Next Generation Award. The awards will be presented in Chicago at Neuroscience 2019, SfN’s annual meeting and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.
“This year’s winners all have a passion for educating people about neuroscience, from kindergarteners to adults, and strive to make science accessible to everyone by focusing on
underserved populations,” SfN president Diane Lipscombe said. “They have each found creative ways to foster interest in science, from blogging, to linking neuroscience to art, to going into schools and allowing students to experience holding a human brain in their hands.”
Science Educator Award: Stefano Sandrone and Cristian Zaelzer-Perez
This year's Science Educator Award honors Stefano Sandrone and Cristian Zaelzer-Perez. The prize, supported by The Dana Foundation, recognizes two outstanding neuroscientists: one who conducts education activities fulltime, and one who devotes his or her time primarily to research while conducting outreach, policy, and education activities. Recipients split a $5,000 prize and receive the opportunity to write a feature commentary on science education in SfN's open-access peer-reviewed journal, eNeuro.
Sandrone, a teaching fellow at Imperial College London, combines excellence and impact in educational activities. He is committed to mentor the next generations of neuroscientists and has endeavored to make science accessible to the largest possible popular audience through a number of strategies and several learning platforms. As a guest blogger on Lindau-Nobel.org, he has penned superb interviews with Nobel Laureates, emphasizing the human side of their stories as well as their science. Moreover, he organized a course on famous and forgotten women in neurology at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, and launched and edits a new online blog called “NeurOn Topic.” Written by students, NeurOn Topic hosts contributions from outstanding women in science. In helping students prepare their blog posts, he concentrates not only on the neuroscientific content, but also on the students’ communication skills. Aside his teaching innovations, Sandrone is a major spokesperson for neuroscience and rising star in the area of neuroscience education research.
In 2016, Zaelzer-Perez, a research associate at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, Canada, founded the Convergence: Perceptions of Neuroscience Initiative, which aims to promote and educate the public on neuroscience, art, and the crossover between the two. As a scientist and graphic designer, Zaelzer-Perez worked to build a bridge between neuroscience and the arts by fostering the development of a space where neuroscientists and artists can meet and work together on collaborative projects that shed light on both fields. Its primary goal is to make neuroscience research accessible to the public by linking it to the arts. Convergence creates professional development opportunities for researchers, artists, and teachers; builds capacity for student research mentorships across disparate fields; develops educational resources through catalogues, lectures, websites, and public events; reaches out through a variety of media formats including blogs, videos, movies, and audio recordings; and produces exceptional exhibitions for a public audience that are at once beautiful, engaging, and highly informative. It also led to an innovative two-semester course, Convergence: Arts, Neuroscience, and Society, at Concordia University. This cross-university, interdisciplinary course invited students to explore the intersection of art, neuroscience, and society, and how these domains shape our understanding of ourselves and others.
Next Generation Awards: Victoria Heimer-McGinn and Project Bridge
The Next Generation Award honors SfN chapter members who have made outstanding contributions to public communication, outreach, and education about neuroscience. The award is given to an individual at the junior faculty level and an individual or group at the pre/postdoctoral level. The recipients each receive a $300 honorarium and their respective chapters receive a $2,000 chapter grant.
Junior Faculty: Victoria Heimer-McGinn
Heimer-McGinn, an assistant professor of psychology at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island, co-founded Brain Week RI and remains the guiding force behind its impressive set of events during Brain Awareness Week. Due in large part to Heimer-McGinn’s efforts, the number and diversity of visitors, participants, institutions, and other organizations involved has steadily increased over the four years that Brain Week RI has been held. Brain Week RI is now a very well-established program in the state and the main outreach effort for the brain science community. This year it had fifteen events, which attracted over two thousand attendees. In addition, throughout the year, the BRAINY program, founded as a part of Brain Week RI, reaches out to local K-12 schools, prioritizing schools with underserved populations. The program coordinates school visits by Brown University graduate students, who bring plasticized human brains and aim to excite students about careers in brain science.
Pre/Postdoctoral: Project Bridge
Project Bridge, an outreach organization run by graduate students at Johns Hopkins University, aims to further the involvement of the broader community in science, as well as expose underrepresented minorities to neuroscience research as early as possible. Cody Call, Emma Spikol, Meiling Mei and Kevin Monk, graduate students at Johns Hopkins University and current or past co-presidents of Project Bridge, will accept the award on behalf of the project.
Project Bridge has nine current activities — spanning from programs for middle school students to general outreach efforts like the annual BrainFest — and estimates that it reaches about 1000 Baltimore residents annually. However, what makes Project Bridge so unique is that it also serves two additional important purposes.
First, the organization allows for continuity in outreach efforts. The involvement of individual students in outreach is necessarily impacted by the demands of their thesis work and will usually end after graduation. Project Bridge provides a framework that allows these transitions without affecting the ongoing outreach activities. Second, Project Bridge members have recognized the value in establishing a platform for starting new outreach efforts. By helping students implement their ideas for new projects, Project Bridge ensures not just the sustainability, but the growth of outreach efforts in Baltimore.
The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) is an organization of nearly 36,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and the nervous system.